If you were to answer this question, not about your food intake, but in relation to your creativity, how would you answer?
Are you currently on a health-kick, feeding yourself nourishing morsels from all kinds of sources, or are you in a creative-consumer rut, stuck absorbing a glut of empty promises, effectively starving yourself into a sugar-like slump of creative torpor?
It’s easy to do.
In various seasons we can find ourselves creatively starving, too tired or drained to really invest in stretching our appetites and creative muscles, and falling back on the easy endorphin rush of trashy tv, or easy novels, or music which speaks of nothing much, simply stifling the silence.
There is a place for the odd bit of creative junk food.
I personally always used to enjoy watching America’s Next Top Model. Not for the bitchiness and excessive drama of the young women, but because I love costume and photography. Watching the journey of the contestants as they learned (or sometimes didn’t learn) how to connect with and inhabit their bodies, in ways which communicated something profound, or simply beautiful was fascinating. Maybe Love Island is your bag.
But if we are not leaning in to the few nuggets of real food to be discovered within these things, we will leave bloated and unsatisfied, and will find that the well of ideas for our own creative projects, has run dry, and we are stuck in the mud.
Just as with our physical bodies, where we need all kinds of variety – from protein-rich nourishment, to leafy greens and bright-coloured fruit and veg, as well as the energy boosting carbs in order to function well, so it is the same with feeding our creativity.
We need a rich and varied diet of works which challenge our thoughts and emotions, stretch us and shape us, and which will take us outside our ourselves and our own experiences.
This allows us to become more empathetic, placing ourselves inside another perspective and taking in the new view. In stepping out of our echo chambers, we learn to boldly give voice to something new, resulting in richer work.
Three easy ways to do this are:
1. Try something completely new.
This is as simple as it sounds.
Choose to read, watch, visit or try out something that you have never done before.
Maybe (once lockdown finally ends) you could enrol on a course for a few weeks, doing something creative that has vaguely piqued your interest in the past, but which you have never made time to try. It may turn out to be your new favourite hobby or skill, or it may simply be something you did for six weeks of your life – either way the experience will not have been wasted.
The same goes for seeing a play/film/poetry reading/concert, or simply listening to music in an entirely different genre from your usual choices.
The different style and voices will expose you to something outside of your usual fare, and will all add to the richness of your interior world.
2. Have another go at something you’ve previously disliked or dismissed.
Very often the reason we have strong feelings towards something, is because they touch a nerve or simply resonate with us in a way we feel uncomfortable.
We do know when something may be unhealthy or unhelpful for us – for example, I don’t like and will not engage with horror. I have a highly active imagination and don’t enjoy feeling frightened or hyping up my fear, particularly when it means the potential for months of disturbed sleep – I personally think that there is enough fear to cope with in life, without deliberately putting ourselves in the way of more.
However, often our anger or hostility to something is actually pointing out a level of fear or tension, which we could do with looking at more closely.
When I went back to do the second half of my Dance A’Level, I outrightly dismissed a visual image offered as a stimulus for my final piece, because it made me feel angry.
However upon leaning into it, I found that there was rich material for me to process, and it creatively stretched me to make something beyond my immediate reach. I ultimately choreographed a dance which was dynamic and creatively exciting, and I am really proud of it.
Leaning in to a style or genre we’ve previously written off, may actually challenge us to go further out of our comfort zone, and the end result can be very brave and beautiful.
Maybe there’s something you really need to re-visit?
3. Try something more familiar in a different format.
Sometimes we can go back to the same thing which we know feeds us, but looking at it in a different format, can be all we need to open up new thoughts and creative direction.
I love Shakespeare’s sonnets, but I was delighted to find an album collection – ‘When Love Speaks – The Sonnets’ -read by a variety of excellent actors, and interspersed with musical performances of the poems from the likes of Annie Lennox, Keb’ Mo’, and my ultimate favourite arrangement is of ‘When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes’ by Rufus Wainwright.
These sung versions give new insight to the sonnets’ meanings and flavour, and it was wonderful to hear them through a different voice.
Have a favourite film – why not try reading the book?
Love Metallica? Have a listen to their S&M album where their work is fully orchestrated – it is rich, dynamic and electric.
Love a classic story like Jane Eyre? Why not go to see a dance or stage version?
With each new interpretation, there will be something different brought to the fore and this can richly enhance your enjoyment of your original favourite.
Every person is unique, therefore when we allow ourselves to be richly fed and creatively stretched, giving ourselves the space to process and internalise the discoveries we make, we will have something original, shared through our unique lens, to offer a world hungry for beauty and truth.